1. A storytelling circle is a priceless gift. Gather ‘round the fire with your friends and share your stories. Even if you’ve told them 100 times, it’s still so much better than the reruns you could watch instead. Some of my best memories from the village are of those story times, even when I couldn't understand them, because the feeling in the circle was of love and community.
2. We are each individuals and deserve attention. In Zambia, when you walk into a meeting, you go around and shake hands with each person and go through a greeting sequence with them, asking how they are and how their family is. You don’t just wave hello at the whole bunch- that will be offensive and get you nowhere. Back in American settings, I've found that instead of just plowing into asking someone something- like at the grocery store- if I first ask them how they are and really listen, it changes the experience. It's more personal and connected and feels so much better.
3. A smile can still light up a room, even when you don’t speak the same language. And a tremendous amount of your message can be conveyed with facial expressions.
5. Make an honest effort. In my meetings, my caveman Bemba normally got my message across (Boil water. Wash Hands. No diarrhea.) and there was always a translator to assist me when it wouldn't. But, the fact that I showed that I was trying to learn the language and making a genuine effort was always well appreciated by my audience. I always got shocked comments from people who were so moved that I'd tried, even though I murdered their language. It's always worth it to try to use your skills, even when you're not yet an expert.
6. Imagination opens the whole world up for your exploration. Zambian kids create the coolest toys. They make their own soccer balls out of plastic grocery bags and string, make real moving toy cars out of juice boxes and flip flops, and use charcoal for chalk. I was constantly in awe of their ability to create something out of nothing.
8. There is always room for joy. Laugh, sing, dance. My friends and neighbors in Zambia were not always well fed. There were periods when the harvest was poor and they were starving or sick. However, they were always laughing and singing and dancing. If they can choose joy when they're dealing with so much, how can I not choose it just because I'm having some minor trial? Also, any empty container or flat surface can be a drum. There is never a good excuse not to dance.
9. You can find love in the most unexpected of places. I met my husband in the market, in front of the used tires and miscellaneous metals. It was over a year later that we started dating, but the market will always be special for us, since that's where we first met.
Thank you, Zambia! You are always my second home and I'm so grateful for the multitude of blessings you gave me. Thank you to all the beautiful people who are now part of my life and my heart because of that adventure!